WaPo Editorial: Raise the Gas Tax

An editorial in the Washington Post asks if falling oil prices will cause motorists to resume their old ways:

THE PRICE OF crude oil closed at $57.04 a barrel on Friday. That’s about $90 cheaper than it was in July. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline Friday was $2.15, nearly $2 less than it was in July. This is definitely good news for the battered American consumer. But we fear that the temptation to return to gas-guzzling vehicles, to drive more and to forget the painful lessons learned last summer will be too great to resist.

And I can’t help but wonder if falling gas prices and cooling temperatures are pulling recently converted bike commuters off their bikes and back into their cars.

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8 Responses to “WaPo Editorial: Raise the Gas Tax”

  • Nate Briggs says:

    Hey Alan:

    Obama himself had a great line during his 60 MINUTES interview.

    When it comes to gas prices, he said: “We are either in a panic … or a trance.”

    Elaborating on this, when the price goes up there all kinds of squawking and dust and intense news conferences.

    Once the price goes down – like now – we go “back to the womb” and assume that everything might be fine.

    This pattern needs to end – and a $4 “floor” would end it. And that “floor” would still give Americans gasoline at half the price of the United Kingdom.

  • Dave Kee says:

    Cratering oil prices will strangle clean alternative fuels in their cradle. A revenue neutral, fully rebated tax on dirty (carbon emitting) fuels would level the playing field without harming the economy. Won’t happen, of course, because of the “T” work.

  • Greg says:

    Dave, Obama wants to set up a cap-and-trade system on emissions, but I don’t know how much that would bubble down to consumers. If the tax is put on energy companies (like oil/gas companies) for the use of products directly sold to consumers, then it might bubble to the consumers without needing to specifically enact a gasoline tax, which indeed would be political suicide.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    A gas tax is a good idea. I don’t agree that it would be political suicide, as long as it worked.

  • Chris Cowan says:

    I’m visiting my folks in AZ and I’m amazed at all the Hummers & Tahoes driving around. I was thinking about this today that the gas prices are going to dramatically set back the US with regards to eco-friendly behavior. I’m a strong believer that people will only be green when it makes economical sense. I think the only thing we can hope for is that the big 3 will get the message from the government that we need to start producing low emission vehicles. With the low gas prices I can already see my wife changing her behavior taking trips across town that she would normally avoid.

  • Russ says:

    When the price of a gallon of gasoline hit about $3.50 people stopped buying SUVs and the demand for fuel efficient and electric cars increased. Ford and GM closed truck assembly lines and bicycle sales increased. These are all very good results of the increase in the price of fuel. I am for a fuel tax of 50 to 60 percent with proceeds going to public transportation, road maintenance and separate cycling facilities like they have in the Netherlands as discussed in the attached link.

    http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/Irresistible.pdf

  • Geoff says:

    These aren’t “falling gas prices…!!” Back to $ 1.90 per gallon is NOT a ‘falling gas price’, by any means!!

    When I was driving my first car (a ’49 dark green Oldsmobile 4-door sedan, with a straight 6-cylinder, in-line, L-head engine and lots of chrome), gasoline was 24 CENTS a gallon. That was in the early-to-mid 1960s. My second car was a 1969 VW camper (Westphalia). When I started putting gas in that one, gas had zoomed up to 30 CENTS a gallon…a real fuel crisis for those days. I could go 360 miles for about $4.00….or about 1.1 cents per mile. Now we look at a fluctuation of $2.00 a gallon in a month, but with the base (floor) still around $2.00 per gallon. That 360 mile, 16-gallon tank now costs $32.00 (@ $2.00 per gallon), or roughly .09 (cents) per mile just for fuel.

    We will never see 30 CENTS a gallon for fuel again, unless it’s alcohol, and we make it on our own, in a still in the backyard, from used corncobs or other discarded biomass. And well need different cars to burn it in (maybe go back to steam-powered automobiles..??).

    I believe gasoline will be back to the $4.00 per gallon level, or higher, within the 2009 year. That will mean fuel prices of almost 20 cents per mile, which is far beyond the threshold of economic pain for ‘reasonable’ mobility and common sense. Bicycles will become a ‘standard’ for any transportation not requiring handling of goods more than 50 pounds and within 10 miles from home. It’s just a MUCH smarter way of getting around. Devices like the Velo-Solex motorized bicycle, made in France in the 50s and 60s, with the small one-cylinder motor driving a friction roller on the front wheel of the bike, could deliver 80 miles per gallon plus. Those bikes are still made today, and may see a big penetration here in this country.

    Geoff

  • andy parmentier says:

    what came first, the chicken or the egg? (what came first, the weak global economy, or cheap gas prices?) did cheap gas prices all these years (not just the last few months) have
    something to do with a false feeling of invincibility in the financial world? high gas prices in europe, were responded to with excellent cycling infrastructure, fuel efficient cars, etc.
    i doubt that european financiers were largely if at all responsible for the meltdown..perhaps cycling to work, being a form of physical honesty, rubs off on the intellectual honesty of markets..(no predatory lending, etc) yet i read that the european markets are taking it the worst.
    p.s. sorry about my gross overgeneralizations

 
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